An 8-year-old boy battling cerebral palsy just got a big boost from a music superstar.
Gloria Estefan is paying for specialized treatment to help Nicholas “Nico” Katrib of Miami – and on Monday she met the boy whose life she is changing forever.
“It was so emotional,” Estefan, 57, tells PEOPLE after meeting Nico and his family. “He was adorable. He gave me kisses and knew my name.”
Born at just one pound, Nico’s mom, Yordanka Fernandez, 38, and her husband, Kyril Katrib, 37, were told Nico would be in a severely compromised state for life. Despite the grim prognosis and limited family income, they pushed forward with multiple rehabilitation treatments for Nico.
He made miraculous progress, but when Fernandez heard about a specific treatment that she knew could change his life for the better, she found out it was only offered at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
But even the $36,000 price tag didn’t stop the family from getting him there.
Fernandez convinced the Miami Herald to do a story about her son, which included a GoFundMe link asking the public to help raise money to get him to the institute, which was reportedly not covered by Medicaid.
It was then that Estefan got a Twitter comment from a fan asking her to check out the article.
“I clicked the link and I saw that Nico’s mom had been doing everything in her power to get him to the institute,” says Estefan. “I knew there was a deadline because she was trying to get him into a summer program.”
Estefan ultimately decided to fund his entire stay at RIC.
“I told her to keep the money that had been raised on GoFundMe to help with her other important expenses,” she says.
When Fernandez heard the news, she couldn’t believe it.
“I thought someone was playing a joke on me,” she tells PEOPLE. “But then when I was able to talk to Gloria, I was just in a state of shock. I couldn’t laugh, shout or cry.”
The Cuban American musician knows what it’s like to face a scary health crisis. Twenty-five years ago, Estefan herself was in a serious bus crash that almost left her paralyzed.
“I had a doctor that looked outside of the box and gave me hope,” she says. “So when I saw this mother doing so much for her son, it really touched me and I wanted to help her.”
At the institute, Nico and his family plan to give Estefan pictures of him throughout his stay, where his main goal is to improve his walking and hopefully progress from his walker to forearm crutches.
“He was born a fighter,” says Fernandez. “What I love most about him is he is playful and a super happy child.”
Although Nico has a long road ahead, his doctor tells PEOPLE that he is already improving his overall strength and stamina.
“He is here for a few months. We really have some very specific goals for him to achieve, which will definitely impact his ability for greater independence with his walking,” Dr. Gadi Revivo tells PEOPLE.
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When Estefan left the family in Chicago on Monday, she said goodbye – but not for long.
“I can’t wait to see how he continues to progress,” she says. “Even when they go back to Miami, I intend to keep in touch and follow this family along.”
And for Fernandez?
“Every day I ask for the well-being of my family and my child and now every day I will be asking for the same thing for Gloria and her family. May they always be happy and healthy,” she says.